Travel Postcard: 48 Hours in Bruges

Fri May 4, 2012 2:47pm EDT
 
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By Robert-Jan Bartunek

BRUGES, Belgium (Reuters) - The well-preserved historic Bruges city centre is a UNESCO world heritage site and with eight Michelin star restaurants and the most independent chocolatiers in Belgium, it is worth a visit even for those who do not like museums.

The Belgian city of just over 100,000 inhabitants had its heyday in the 14th and 15th century until its access to the sea silted up, cutting it off from world trade routes and leaving it untouched by world affairs for the centuries to come.

This changed when Georges Rodenbach published his book "Bruges-la-Morte" in 1892, turning the city into a tourist destination.

Trains from Brussels run twice an hour and take about 70 minutes. Bruges is also well connected to the road network with the E40 motorway leading to Brussels or the French border. Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a 48-hour visit.

FRIDAY

6 p.m. - While station neighborhoods in other cities can be daunting, Bruges has a clean and modern railway station just on the southern tip of the historic city centre. Standing on the square in front of the railway station, you can already see some of the old towers rising up behind the trees of a lush park that circles the centre. Head across the main road and turn right into the park to immediately stumble across the first attraction, the Poedertoren, an old gun powder deposit. Stroll along the Minnewater canal until a small gate on the left opens up towards the Beguinage.

6:30 p.m. - The Beguinage, a type of convent that from the 13th century onwards accommodated religious women who took no formal vows, is a beautiful row of small, white houses set around a circular square with tall poplar trees. The Beguinage was taken over by Benedictine nuns in the early 20th century and about 20 nuns still live there today. Visitors are reminded to keep noise to a minimum and large tour groups are not allowed to enter, making it one of the most tranquil places in the city.

7 p.m. - Cross the small bridge, continue into Wijngaardstraat and take a left at the end to enter Katelijnestraat. The tranquility that marked the early part of our route fades as the first tourist shops, selling lace, chocolate and beer as well as less tasteful t-shirts, appear. If you want to see the city from a very different perspective, a boat tour is a good way to do it. Boats leave from Katelijnestraat on the left, just before the bridge. A tour takes 30 minutes and costs 7.60 euros.   Continued...

 
Farmers work in a polytunnel, where vegetables for Belgian chef Gert De Mangeleer's restaurant Hertog Jan, the country's latest three-star Michelin restaurant, are grown, near Bruges March 29, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir